Iraq Oil Report's Daily Brief compiles the most important news and analysis about Iraq from around the web.

Iraqi prime minister visits Basra, months after unrest

Qassim Abdul-Zahra writes for AP:

Iraq’s new prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, made his first visit to Basra on Sunday, promising better water and electricity services after riots swept through the impoverished city last summer.

Demonstrators set fire to nearly every government building in the summer unrest and torched most political party offices and the Iranian consulate as well. At least a dozen protesters were killed in the security response.

Basra generates most of Iraq’s oil revenues, but its services are in decay. The city’s canals are clogged with garbage and its drinking water is unsafe.

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US-Led Coalition: Militia Didn’t Stop Iraq Survey

Rikar Hussein writes for Voice of America:

The U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS) Friday denied it was blocked by Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) from conducting a military inspection in Iraq's Anbar province near the Syrian border.

In an email to VOA, the U.S.-led international coalition's Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) said the operation in western Anbar earlier this week was coordinated with the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and the purpose of it was to survey Iraqi border security posts with Syria as a part of the ongoing effort to defeat IS.

"This survey was planned, coordinated and conducted with the ISF, and occurred without incident," CJTF-OIR told VOA.

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The U.S. Army in the Iraq War – Volume 1: Invasion – Insurgency – Civil War, 2003-2006

Strategic Studies Institute writes:

The Iraq War has been the costliest U.S. conflict since the Vietnam War. To date, few official studies have been conducted to review what happened, why it happened, and what lessons should be drawn. The U.S. Army in the Iraq War is the Army’s initial operational level analysis of this conflict, written in narrative format, with assessments and lessons embedded throughout the work. This study reviews the conflict from a Landpower perspective and includes the contributions of coalition allies, the U.S. Marine Corps, and special operations forces. Presented principally from the point of view of the commanders in Baghdad, the narrative examines the interaction of the operational and strategic levels, as well as the creation of theater level strategy and its implementation at the tactical level. Volume 1 begins in the truce tent at Safwan Airfield in southern Iraq at the end of Operation DESERT STORM and briefly examines actions by U.S. and Iraqi forces during the interwar years. The narrative continues by examining the road to war, the initially successful invasion, and the rise of Iraqi insurgent groups before exploring the country’s slide toward civil war. This volume concludes with a review of the decision by the George W. Bush administration to “surge” additional forces to Iraq, placing the conduct of the “surge” and its aftermath in the second volume.

This study was constructed over a span of 4 years and relied on nearly 30,000 pages of handpicked declassified documents, hundreds of hours of original interviews, and thousands of hours of previously unavailable interviews. Original interviews conducted by the team included President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretaries of Defense Leon Panetta and Robert Gates, Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and every theater commander for the war, among many others. With its release, this publication, The U.S. Army in the Iraq War, represents the U.S. Government’s longest and most detailed study of the Iraq conflict thus far.

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Summer is Coming: The Crucible for the New Iraqi Government

Douglas Ollivant writes for War on the Rocks:

In Baghdad this month, the mood is generally positive. A new government has been formed and higher oil prices (the recent decline notwithstanding) have given Iraq a stake of cash with which to address its problems. Despite continuing insecurity in the mixed areas between Baghdad and Mosul, levels of violence remain low. While most Westerners — constrained by the terms of their insurance policies or governments — retreat to convoys of SUVs, those unburdened by such restraints walk freely, are driven by friends, and take cabs or use “Uber-like” services. Nightlife continues to flourish in Baghdad as its youthful population brings a new mood to the city. And while the “opening” of the so-called “Green Zone” was a bit overhyped (it’s only open at night), it nonetheless shows the confidence of the Iraqi government to allow access to its own government center (after clearing numerous checkpoints). By any objective standard, things in Iraq are as good as they have ever been. True, the rest of the country lags behind the relative functionality of Baghdad, but the example set by the capital is important.

The shadow of the Basra protests of July and August still looms over the polity. The protests in Basra shook the state to the core, for several reasons. First, they occurred in the heart of the power base of most of the major parties. Major Shi’a parties such as Dawa, Fadhila, Hikma, Asa’ib al Haq (AAH) and Badr were all caught up in the conflagration, their offices burned by the protestors, making clear the lack of satisfaction with politics as usual. Second, Basra province is a critical, even existential, interest of the Iraqi state. As the last few years have demonstrated, Sunni-majority cities like Fallujah, Ramadi, and even Mosul can be lost, and Iraq can win them back, albeit at too high a cost. The fate of these regions does not threaten the (Shi’a-majority) state itself, at least not in the short term. But Basra is the heart, and — for now — virtually the sum total, of the Iraqi economy. Absent Basra’s oil revenues, activity in Baghdad — and the other provinces — grinds to a halt. Finally, these protests involved an important, if controversial, sector of Iraqi society — those who fought against ISIL, as well as the families of those who died or were heavily wounded during the fight. The failure of the state to provide essential services for the demobilized Hashd fighters and their families is of deep embarrassment.

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Iraq’s Adel Abdul Mahdi: US did not demand Shiite militias be disarmed

Mina Aldroubi reports for The National:

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi denied that he was urged by Washington to disarm Shiite paramilitaries as angry MPs called for the withdrawal of all US troops.

The Shiite fighters, known as the Popular Mobilisation Force, are a group of militias backed by Iran, which the US regards as among the biggest threats to security in the Middle East. The militias became an official unit of Iraq’s security forces after playing a vital role in fighting ISIS after 2014.

Reports claimed that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had asked Baghdad to confiscate weapons held by the 67 militia groups, including Badr, Asab Ahl Al Haq and Saraya Al Salam, that are headed by the influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr.

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Iran Works to Keep Iraq Open for Business

Ghassan Adnan and Isabel Coles write for The Wall Street Journal:

Iranian officials traveled to Baghdad this week to push for expanded trade and energy ties as it tries to undercut U.S. efforts to weaken Iraq’s economic links to its neighbor.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is in Iraq this week with a delegation of more than 50 companies. The visit comes a week after Iranian energy officials traveled to Baghdad to discuss strengthening energy links and keeping Iranian natural gas flowing to Iraq, where it accounts for over 40% of the country’s electricity needs.

The visits from top Iranian officials highlight the tightrope that Iraq walks, as competition intensifies between Iran and the U.S. for influence in Iraqi politics and market share of its economy. Iran and the U.S. both helped Iraq defeat Islamic State but are now locked in an economic battle after the Trump administration pulled out of the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions.

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Mosul destroys iconic building used by ISIS for gruesome killings

The National reports:

Only three floors remain of Mosul’s National Insurance Company building, where ISIS killed young men it accused of homosexuality and breaking Islamic law.

While Unesco and Iraqi religious leaders last month laid the cornerstone to rebuild the northern Iraqi city’s famous Al Nuri Mosque and adjacent leaning minaret, other buildings were being torn down.

Demolition work on the National Insurance building began about a month ago, tearing down the remains of one of Mosul’s most important buildings.

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Jordan king visits Iraq for first time in decade

AFP reports:

Jordanian King Abdullah II met Iraq's president and prime minister in Baghdad on Monday, in the monarch's first trip to Iraq in more than a decade.

It is the latest in a string of top-level visits to Iraq in recent weeks, which kicked off with a surprise Christmas trip by US President Donald Trump.

King Abdullah met separately with Iraqi President Barham Saleh, who had travelled to Jordan in November, and Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi, their press offices said.

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France pledges 1B euros in aid to rebuild Iraq

AP reports:

France is committing $1 billion euros ($1.15 billion) to help Iraq rebuild after its war against the Islamic State group, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Monday.

Le Drian was in Baghdad on a busy day that also saw Iraq's top officials receiving King Abdullah II of Jordan.

The French diplomat said the aid would go to rebuilding Iraq's most devastated areas.

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By necessity or design, Iraqi women launch Mosul firms

AFP reports:

Under the thumb of extremist rule they were deemed minors – unable to do anything without permission from a father or husband – but today women are establishing businesses in Iraq’s Mosul.

In red letters ‘Umm Mustafa and sons’ looms large over a modest grocery, standing out in a sea of shop facades daubed with male proprietors’ names.

“At first some gave me evil looks, but I have no pension and I had no choice but to open my shop,” Umm Mustafa, dressed in black, told AFP.

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